This week, Tennessee enters Athens to take on Kirby Smart and the No. 25 Georgia Bulldogs. Last year, the Vols started out slow and allowed the Bulldogs to take a 24-3 lead before Josh Dobbs rallied his team to a 38-31 victory. This year’s game is crucial in the race to decide an SEC East champion.
This matchup will be the second game of a brutal four game stretch against ranked teams. In the coming weeks, Tennessee will travel to Texas A&M and play at home against Alabama — both teams are currently ranked in the Top 10. In order for the Vols to have a shot at the SEC Championship, it is crucial for them to conquer the Bulldogs. Here are some playmakers you should keep an eye on for a potential breakthrough performance.
Baylen Buchanan, Cornerback
Last week against Florida, Justin Martin struggled to contain Florida’s receivers and was beaten multiple times by Antonio Callaway. Because of his struggles, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop decided that Baylen Buchanan would get his first career start this Saturday against Georgia.
As a true freshman, he has performed exceptionally well and has stepped up greatly with Cameron Sutton being sidelined by an injury. Buchanan will play a vital role in the Vols’ attempts to slow down Isaiah McKenzie and Georgia’s other offensive weapons. Keep an eye on him to potentially make some plays against Georgia’s passing attack.
Alvin Kamara, Running Back
After last season, many believed that the redshirt junior Kamara didn’t make as big of an impact as fans had hoped he would. So far in 2016, a similar thing has happened. Against Florida, Kamara only had three offensive touches for 18 total yards. However, look for him to breakout against Georgia. He’s one of Tennessee honorary team captains and is a leader on and off the field. Tennessee will have to get him more involved to keep the defense on edge.
Jauan Jennings, Wide Receiver
The sophomore receiver Jennings had his best performance of the season — and arguably his career — last week against Florida. He had three catches for 110 yards and a touchdown against what is widely considered one of the best defensive backfields in the nation. This week, Tennessee faces a much weaker passing defense in Georgia — the Bulldogs are ranked 78th nationally in passing yards allowed per game and they are ranked 90th in team passing-efficiency defense. The Vols weren’t able to find much success passing the ball until the second half last week, but they have a lot of momentum in their favor. Look for Jennings to lead the charge and have another great game.
Shy Tuttle, Defensive Tackle
Last year against Georgia, Tuttle, now a sophomore, suffered a gruesome season-ending leg injury on a cheap block by Georgia offensive linemen Brandon Kublanow. Since coming back from that injury, Tuttle has performed well. However, he hasn’t quite reached the level of play he showcased last season again. Look for him to finally have a breakout performance and to terrorize the Georgia offense.
Tennessee will take on Georgia this Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m ET on CBS
Edited by Adam Milliken
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics